CRN Exclusive: Unitrends Appoints Former Mimecast Exec As New Channel Chief, Launches New Partner Program

Unitrends has appointed former Mimecast top channel exec Eli Kalil as its new channel chief and launched a new partner program, the company announced Thursday.

Kalil now serves as vice president of global channel sales at the disaster recovery company, a position he has held since September. He joins Unitrends from Mimecast, where he was senior vice president of worldwide channel sales and operations.

In an interview with CRN, Kalil said he looks to bring the same impact he brought to Mimecast to his new role, with a focus on aligning the channel sales and marketing teams more closely with the rest of the business. That includes the launch of a more focused and unified partner program, he said.

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Kalil's appointment comes as Unitrends looks to build on its channel-first strategy. The company announced three years ago that it would move to a 100 percent channel model. Now, Unitrends is looking to build on that initial foundation and drive more support for the channel through the entire organization, Senior Director of Channel Marketing Dante Gordon said. Kalil will lead that effort, he said.

"It's one thing to announce that you're 100 percent channel and it's another to fully operate as a channel-centric company," Gordon said "Now we're taking it to the next level where each and every employee in the company has the responsibility to enable and drive business through partnerships in the channel."

The new partner program, which will be launched in Q4, will be a tiered partner model, with silver, gold, and platinum tiers. The tiers are broken down by revenue and training requirements, rewarding those partners who do invest more in Unitrends, Gordon said.

The new program includes traditional program incentives such as marketing, deal registration, and a soon-to-be-launched revamped partner portal. He said the company has also launched a Partner Advisory Council to get ongoing feedback on the new program.

Gordon said all sales team members and leadership are now aligned around working with partners and building relationships, making sure 100 percent of new leads are brought to partners. He said the company had implemented a partner success initiative to measure its performance as perceived by partners.

Unitrends expects the new program to drive more sales with partners who have already invested in selling Unitrends, but might not have been receiving the incentives they deserved above and beyond those partners only doing a few sales a year with the company. He said he hopes it will also incent more "casual partners" of the company to do more business with Unitrends.

Conversant Group is impressed by Kalil's influence in helping loosen Mimecast's commitment to a direct sales motion and helping shift the company to a more channel-focused model, according to Chief Listening Officer and President John Anthony Smith.

Smith met Kalil shortly after he joined Unitrends, and said that Kalil's commitment to the channel, kindness, and receptivity to suggestions came across clearly in the conversation.

Unitrends' shift from a flat partner program structure to a tiered model, meanwhile, is consistent with industry trends since most manufacturers also have tiered structures, Smith said. But Unitrends sets itself apart through fantastic channel support and massive respect for channel partners.

"It's not a 'one-deal-and-done' kind of thing for them," Smith said. "Their heart is in it."

Conversant Group discovered Unitrends earlier this year after almost losing proposed installation project to a company supporting the vendor, Smith said. Shortly thereafter, Conversant received a demo of Unitrends, Smith said, and was blown away by the variety of use cases it supports, its imperviousness to ransomware, and its ability to backup on-premise, in the cloud, or any combination in between.

The company has sold Unitrends to a number of new customers, Smith said, and is having conversations with existing customers about the benefits of using Unitrends rather than Veeam, which was previously Conversant's leading backup and disaster recovery provider. Conversant has joined Unitrends' partner council, and, within the next few months, expects to hit $1 million of business with them, Smith said.

"Their efforts to be channel-focused and their efforts on developing a world-class channel program are going to ultimately lead to great success," Smith said.